The Mount Alava Trail is a well-established hike through a lush section of tropical rainforest containing extensive plant and tree growth, native birds, and fruit bats which leads to a historical summit area with views all around Pago Pago Harbor and the island of Tutuila. Difficulties encountered during the hike include dealing with heat and humidity and being very careful with footing on the steeper sections if there are muddy trail conditions due to recent rainy weather. A topographical map of the hiking route can be found by clicking on the button above. GPS coordinates for the starting point are -14.283713, -170.713094.
Upon visiting the Cook Islands in 2015 and French Polynesia in 2016, we selected American Samoa to be our next destination in the South Pacific. The main reason was to visit the beautiful island of Ofu to experience the beaches, lagoon, and hikes found in that peaceful setting. However, we were also interested in seeing the main island of Tutuila and checking out some of the hikes and scenery which could be found there. Before leaving, we consulted with current Death Valley National Park superintendent Mike Reynolds, who was formerly the superintendent for the National Park of American Samoa. He provided us with some detailed information which both prepared us for our trip and made our time there much more enjoyable as we didn't miss out on any important highlights. To reach American Samoa, we caught a flight from San Francisco to Honolulu, and then a second flight from there to Pago Pago (pronounced Pango Pango). Being veteran South Pacific travelers, we were fully expecting the heat and humidity which was waiting for us upon arrival. One of our first stops was at the National Park Visitor Center. We got to know some of the park staff and received additional tips from them about the four major hikes we hoped to do during our trip. The Visitor Center had a lot of excellent displays and the staff members were quite knowledgeable and helpful. We spent the next couple of days exploring the island and doing some of the shorter hikes to viewpoints of coastal cliffs and rock formations. I then decided to set out on a solo hike to Mount Alava. The hike to the summit of Mount Alava along the main trail is the centerpiece hike of the National Park of American Samoa trail system. Mount Alava is the fourth highest peak on Tutuila Island at 1,610 feet in elevation. The three higher peaks are Matafao Peak (2,142 feet), North Pioa Mountain or Rainmaker Mountain (1,718 feet), and Olotele Mountain (1,617 feet). The regular Mount Alava Trail begins at Fagasa Pass (at around 600 feet in elevation) and climbs to the northeast, gaining 1,000 feet in elevation over the course of about 3 1/2 miles before reaching the summit. Thus, the hike is 7 miles round-trip. (There is an alternate route to the summit which is known as the Mount Alava Adventure Trail. That hike is shorter at 5.6 miles round-trip but it is much more challenging. To read about that hike, check out my separate report for it.) Mount Alava and the ridgeline leading to it are both widely visible from Pago Pago below. The summit towers over the harbor and almost beckons hikers to come pay a visit.
For my hike, I parked my rental car at the parking area at Fagasa Pass. After enjoying the views down to the village of Fagasa and Fagasa Bay, and reading the interpretive signs at the trailhead, I began hiking. It was definitely thrilling to be setting out on another major hike at a new destination in the South Pacific. The trail follows a 4WD road that is probably maintained to service the television and radio infrastructure at the summit. It was muddy in some areas as there had been off-and-on rain, but it wasn't too challenging and was easy to follow (except for some more slippery steep sections). Some of the highlights along the trail include checking out the rainforest plants, trees (including coconut and banana), wildflowers, native birds, and fruit bats. The heavy brush occasionally opens up to provide views of the island and ocean in various directions. Upon reaching the bottom of the summit area, there is a metal stairway in place and ruins of the tramway (or cable car) system which used to bring people up to the top. The tramway was once described as being "the longest single-span aerial tramway in the world" before a terrible tragedy happened. The views from the summit of Mount Alava are spectacular, with the best views looking to the east at the dramatic face of Rainmaker Mountain, to the southeast at Pago Pago town and harbor, and to the south at Matafao Peak and the surrounding lush green mountains. Be sure to fully walk around the summit area until you reach the Samoan Fale (or covered shelter), which is a good spot to rest up before the hike back down. Just beyond the fale, you can see where the regular trail connects with the Adventure Trail, as the first rope ladder down the other side is visible. This hike is not to be missed if you happen to be visiting American Samoa. Mike Reynolds, mentioned earlier, described his 3 1/2 years living in American Samoa as "a beyond-description fantastic experience". Upon returning home, I would feel much the same way about my time spent there. My hike took place on September 6, 2017.
Many more photographs taken during our visit are available for viewing for this destination. To see all of them, choose one of the two options presented below. The two options are Slideshow viewing and Trip Report viewing. The Slideshow option allows for viewing larger images with an autoplay option and a full screen option (available on most browsers). This option works very well for large computer screens and tablets. The Trip Report option allows for viewing smaller pictures in a standard scroll-down format and enlarging of any panoramic photos taken during our visit. Click on the option of your choice to view all of our photos from this destination. The Slideshow format opens in a new browser window and the Trip Report format uses the same browser window for viewing.
TRIP REPORT FORMAT